We take a deep dive into the Disgo 9200 in this review to see if it lives up to the ‘stunning levels of performance’ claimed by Disgo or if it’s just another device in the plethora of Android tablets.
The Disgo 9200 is a 9.7″ tablet by manufacturer MyDisgo, following on from their single-core 1.0 GHz 9000 model. It’s mainly a hardware upgrade with RAM being doubled to 2 GB, storage to 16 GB and processor upgrades to a Quad-Core CPU and Octo-Core GPU. The OS has also been upgraded from Android 4.0 ICS (Ice Cream Sandwich) to 4.1 Jelly Bean. However, as we’ll see, an upgrade in cores or clock speed doesn’t always automatically result in a better user experience.
It’s advertised alongside the 8400G, a smaller 7.9″, 3G enabled Jellybean tablet that’s a sort of complementary one to the 9200 – similar, but aimed at a different market.
This 9200 features a 16GB flash memory (12.9 GB available after the system’s taken it’s mandatory cut) and 2 GB of RAM. On the short edge on the right hand side (there’s really only one way to hold this tablet in landscape) you’re presented with a multitude of troughs and crests that showcase all the external controls of this tablet. Starting with the mandatory power button, we go up pass the back button, reset pinhole, headphone jack, Mini HDMI, Micro USB, Micro SD and finally ending with the power port and microphone pinhole.
Inside the 9mm thin chassis is a Wi-Fi adapter with 802.11 b/g/n – though quite weak in our range tests. It’s unfortunate Disgo have decided to skimp on a good Wi-Fi adapter and instead gone for a weak adapter that doesn’t pick up much slack if the wireless hub or router has a poor signal. We managed to get it to good Wi-Fi speeds but only once our tablet was moved closer to the router, about 3 meters away.
A real let down on this front.
[Update: It transpires that the 9200 model is not at fault here, but infact we'd got a tablet with a faulty Wi-Fi adapter!]
It’s priced about right – with it’s reasonable processor and connectivity options but lacking the vastly superior display of the Nexus 10, it’s about half the latter’s price. Once in use, it becomes apparent very quickly with the 9200 as to where costs were cut and why this falls in the low-mid range tablet category. Now perhaps it’s not quite fair to compare this tablet to the Nexus, but doing so brings out some useful things. For example, it’s interesting to see that the Nexus 10 has just a HDMI and USB port, whereas the 9200 also has an SD card slot. Similarly the 9200 is powered by an apparently beastly quad core processor, whilst the Nexus 10 ‘only’ has a dual core processor. The 9200 also look more modern with it’s two-tone finish. One could mistake as to which one’s the budget tablet and which one’s the high-end tablet!
But all doubts are dispelled the moment the power button is released and the Nexus 10, like a raging bull hidden in sheeps clothing up to that point, sprints to the homepage with devastating speed. It’s then we see the beauty of the Nexus, but with the 9200 – and indeed with most budget tablets – the exterior is about the best as it’s going to get. Sure, it has a quad core processor but the smoothness falls well short of what one might be led to believe. And that would be because inside is a Chinese budget processor – in the very common AllWinner range.
One of the best aspects of the 9200 is undoubtedly the two-tone slender chassis or, as Disgo quite rightly (proudly) state, ‘the looks that could kill’. The subtle etchings beside the periphery indicators (shown in the image above) running alongside the smaller edge are also quite chic. The bezel is a nice 1.2″ and doesn’t bleed light like some of the other budget tablets in the market, whilst managing to repel fingerprint marks fairly well. There’s no chance of blocking any sound regardless of the size of your hands as the speaker is well out the way, behind the tablet. This mono speaker produces mediocre sound though and it’s somewhat dampened as it’s not directed straight at you but we got by with it as our expectations were low.
Bluetooth 4.0 ships with this tablet too. One thing that stands out with this tablet, apart from it’s sleek finish, is that it comes with a USB OTG (On-The-Go) cable. So you can attach traditional USB devices and have them powered by the 9200 – such as this foldable keyboard that worked straight out of the box for us.
The pedantic among us would’ve noticed a glaring omission in the line up of external controls and we’re sorry to say, it really isn’t anywhere on the tablet. The volume rocker. ‘Tis Gone.
Yes, the by now ubiquitous volume rocker is altogether gone in what can only be described as a blooper. It’s such a drastic deviation from what’s now such a standard and useful external control and one most people simply just expect. Instead, Disgo have compromised the volume rocker for a back button. So now you can go back without having to take the tablet out your bag and look at your screen. Not convinced? Neither are we.
However, although it’s tempting to curse at the 9200 for having no volume rocker, in practice we got used to it pretty quick. But only because – and this must be the saving grace for this omission – the navigation bar* has been specifically customised to now include a volume up/down. As for the why of the omission, perhaps this is futuristic or experimental thinking; although this is acceptable when viewing movies, if it’s heavily used for listening when being on the move, it’s quite frustrating you can’t change the volume without opening it.
As mentioned, the processor is an AllWinner one – specifically an A31 Cortex A7 Quad Core – a budget processor we’ve seen powering the likes of tablets in the Arnova suite and some DServe ones. Performance is wanting when compared to the quad core processor that’s inside the tablet. Starting from a cold start, it takes 40 seconds to fully boot up. Compare this to the 22 seconds it takes the dual-core Nexus 10 running the same OS. So we object to the ‘stunning levels of performance’ Disgo claim – more accurately it should perhaps state ‘performance you’d expect at this price’.
We had serious problems playing movies. Most on YouTube didn’t work, but we had slightly better luck on MetaCafe. There’s a 4K Video Player included – perhaps that’s for locally stored data but we didn’t investigate as we think it’s far more common anyone would be using this to watch online rather than offline content (think you would? – please let us know in the comments!).
Having said that, we’re really glad this is the aspect Disgo have invested in as the predecessor had dismal performance. In terms of specifics, we saw an AnTuTu benchmark of 12286, which is over quadruple the Antutu benchmark of the 9000 so it’s good to see such a positive correlation of the effect of increase in cores. The tablet started to jitter when watching a movie with the AnTuTu benchmark running in the background. The 9200 also boasts an octo-core GPU, so we were disappointed that we got jitters even during the intense Antutu benchmark running. But a more realistic case of playing music whilst working and browsing was smooth and handled well.
At 132 PPI (Pixels per Inch), the 1024×768 resolution is no doubt at the lower end of display quality so our expectations were never that high. However, we were sorely disappointed with the combination of sluggishness of an octo-core GPU when doing simple tasks like zooming and the constant misinterpretation of our single-finger swipes to be zooms. As to what the octo-core GPU exactly does, we’re not sure. Also what’s interesting to note is that although it’s the same resolution as the iPad 1 and 2 on paper, clearly Apple had invested heavily in engineering their display to be as perfect and as polished as possible to give it superiority in contrast and depth of colour.
It’s important to note at this point the aspect ratio aswell. The 9200 is different to most Android tablets 9″/10″ tablets, which feature a 16:10 ratio whereas this tablet has a 4:3 ratio. Why is it different? Well, 16:10 is great for watching movies and if the tablet is mostly to be used as an entertainment device this is what you want. However, the 4:3 ratio that the 9200 features cramps your normal (HD) movie and much of the screen above and below the video is wasted. On the flip side, working in portrait is very much feasible with a 4:3 ratio – such as reading a book or web browsing.
We’re not one to point out minor negligible differences like that between the iPad with Retina and Nexus but here, the 9200 makes watching videos a mediocre experience that’s left far behind as compared to a high-end tablet. Remember that thing we mentioned about noticing where costs have been cut? It’s peculiar that the Note 10.1 has only slighter higher specs on the display front – 149 PPI on it’s 1280 x 800 – but yet it makes for an altogether reasonable display which is in no small part thanks to it’s IPS LCD technology.
In terms of the touchscreen itself, the display is nowhere near as sensitive and smooth as the Nexus and requires a noticeably harder press or swipe, much like an outdoor touchscreen information point. The trick with this tablet is to press hard and slow.
The 0.3MP front-facing and 2.0MP rear-facing cameras are pretty standard these days and we’re not surprised to have these on the 9200 – though the rear camera’s finish is left wanting. More on that later. The camera quality itself isn’t bad – the 3x pinch to zoom is snappy and it auto adjusts quite well, as the pictures show. The Camera ICS app comes bundled so you’ll be up and running with this in no time. Basically, a fairly standard pair of cameras great for Skyping and general purpose use.
The battery life is
absolutely stellar disappointing on this tablet. Initially when we got the tablet the battery indicator would stay right up at around 98 or 99% despite playing video clips, browsing and generally playing with it. We got skeptical but attributed this apparently stellar battery life to the recent announcement in power efficiency changes by AllWinner. However after about 5 hours of intermittent use on a single day, our original skepticism was well founded as we saw the battery indicator suddenly drop to a 17%. The box claims 8 hours of battery use though we think that would be under light-moderate use.
Attention to Detail Disgo !
Or the lack thereof, in the case of the 9200. We like to do thorough reviews and that allows us to project an impression of the tablet that’s as close as possible to reality. So there were some items that didn’t fit into any normal category but running under a common theme, we’ve now listed some things that are of interest.
- We got quite excited (as we do) when we saw the Ethernet settings screen under ‘More’ in Wireless – perhaps there’s a trick to get an RJ45 plugged in to this. But unfortunatley it looks like just a clumsy omission in not removing that setting. There’s USB OTG, but we don’t think that would be able to do it even then.
- While we’re on the subject of settings, taking a quick tour of the setting screens screams carelessness. Statements like “Demo mode – Only half of the screen is an effective, easy to see the effect of it”, “Touch screen to bright it” and “Smart Color – It is better for playing games and video and picture” whilst amusing, are a loss to Disgo’s credibility as it tries to grab market share of mid-range tablets in such a competitive environment.
- The camera has a 2.0 MP camera that sticks out. Like an ulcer. It’s a round protrusion from the top end of the rear of the tablet that mars the overall external appearance of the tablet. Now whilst it doesn’t scratch – its just annoying – its not such a big deal, but it would have compensated for some of the other shortcuts made.
Absence of volume rocketWe’ll let this one slide seeing how it could be a useful innovation – what do you think? Can you do without a volume rocker? Let us know!
Yes, none of these would be showstoppers for most people and can be brushed aside.
Overall, our experience of the tablet is that it essentially feels like a larger version of the Busbi 7, which has a smaller display with the same 132 PPI. It does to justice to it’s price and it’s not an utter pile of rubbish like some tablets. The bogus battery indicator is a let down as well as the widespread carelessness and we can only hope they improve this in the next version.
This is not a tablet that could be called a bargain – in this instance, you get what you pay for. Reading, checking email, surfing, taking pictures, playing games, watching movies etc. are all well suited to this tablet being 9.7″, though the experience is not much above the level of acceptable. The trim profile also makes it perfect for use on the move. When looked at holistically, this target seems to fall in the category of ‘on-the-move budget work tablet’. The included USB OTG cable makes us think that’s the direction MyDisgo are nudging buyers of this tablet too – and as we saw with the USB keyboard, it just works and works very well. The 4:3 aspect ratio, which is not suited to watching movies, also reinforces this perspective. However, although this will ‘do the job’, if you’re looking for a tablet to use for heavy work and you have the extra budget, we’d strongly recommend either the Nexus 10 or Galaxy Note 10.1.
Compare MyDisgo 9200 Prices
* the standard control bar running along the bottom of Android devices